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The “dope” on the Remington Portable

1921 Remington Portable [#1] with early features

There is also something in the Wall Street dope about a public announcement of discontinuance of selling by the Remington company of a side-line — “a well known make of portable typewriter” — the inference being that this either has been unprofitable or that more money would be made from the sale of an entirely new portable typewriter of Remington make. — Typewriter Topics, November, 1919

Thus the Remington Portable [#1], introduced late in 1920 and wildly successful for years. What this machine replaced is likely possibly (?) the Remington Junior (see here), as I can think of no other “portable” before the number 1. (Note: See comments for discussion on this point.)

The typewriter above was manufactured in April 1921, and contains all of the earliest features of this model. (Remington modified this machine so substantially during the five or so years of it manufacture that many variants exist.) Only a week ago I wrote about another number 1 — manufactured in May 1921 — that I had lately added to my collection. Now I have one other. A comparison of the two yields a number of differences:

  • The platen on the April typer is a half inch shorter than the May typer, and contains three “prongs” that can be extended by pushing a button (see photo). What the purpose of these prongs is, I do not know. The platen is shorter in order to accommodate the button; otherwise, the platen assembly is the same length as on subsequent machines.
  • Some of the levers on the April typer are different than those on the May typer, but these differences  seem incidental, as the crafting of those parts probably varied anyway.

I must confess that I am quite taken by the Remington Portable. It has a solid, industrial feel that bespeaks utility. Yet it is ascetically pleasing. That many variants exist enhances the appeal of this typewriter. If you like nuance, this is your machine.

Here is a typing demonstration (yes, the latest addition to my collection is in very good condition):

Photo gallery:

Here is an advertisement about the Remington Portable that I found amusing:

© 2013 – 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Richard P August 24, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Great set of photos.

    The “dope” seems to be saying that Remington was marketing a non-Remington-made portable. But I don’t know which one that might have been.

    • Mark Adams August 24, 2013, 5:01 pm

      Actually, that was my first impression. The “dope” does seem to say that Remington was marketing (manufacturing? distributing?) a non-Remington portable. If this is the case, and if the source is to be trusted, it appears Remington desired greater control over what would become a significant portion of their business.

      Perhaps this is analogous to Apple computer recognizing that the digital music market was ripe for a new player (no pun intended): when Jobs introduced the iPod in he noted that no manufacturer had yet captured the player market, leaving the field wide open for Apple. Further, Apple could not rely upon other companies to produce players for its iTunes services.

      Granted, many typewriter companies successfully marketed portable typewriters before Remington, but none without contrivances: folding keyboards, ultra-portable designs, etc. That Remington portables contained all of the features of a desk-top model, and nearly the same form, was a strong selling point.

      Pursuing articles about the Remington Portable, I am amused that analysts were often surprised at the success of portable typewriters. Few seem to have anticipated the appeal of a compact, portable machine. Again, to draw upon a contemporary example, it is analogous to people’s surprise over the success of the Galaxy Note (the “phablet”) — no one (apart from Samsung, it seems) properly gauged people’s desire for large-screen phones.

      All that said, it would be interesting to know what portable typewriter Remington was marketing before 1920.

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